Atlanta Hawks: 30 Teams in 30 Days
Finished 53-29, second in Southeast Division, third in Eastern Conference.
First Round: Defeated Milwaukee Bucks 4-3
Second Round: Lost to Orlando Magic 4-0
Additions and Re-Signings
Joe Johnson via re-signing, Josh Powell via free agency, Jason Collins via re-signing, and Jordan Crawford via draft.
Josh Childress via free agency
It's difficult to dispute the fact that the Atlanta Hawks have one of the most balanced starting lineup's in the NBA. All but one of the players average double digits in scoring with Joe Johnson leading the way at 21 points and Mike Bibby taking the rear at nine points per game.
While a balanced team could be deemed as a key for success, the Atlanta Hawks have seen their post season runs come to abrupt ends in the past two seasons with two straight sweeps in the second round with the most disappointing of the sweeps coming last season when they set an NBA record for the largest deficit suffered in a seven game series.
How many games will the Hawks win?
So the question is, how do you get over this hump? How do you advance past the second round for a legitimate shot at a championship run in a difficult Eastern Conference?
Re-signing Joe Johnson to $120 million over six years wasn't the answer I was looking for, but if that is what General Manager Rick Sund believes then to each his own. Joe has become a very dangerous shooter in this league and has averaged 21 points over the past three seasons and shot 46 percent last season, while hitting 37 percent from beyond the arc.
The postseason was a completely different story though, as we saw a side of Johnson that we aren't used to seeing. Much like the postseason before, he saw his stats decline and his shooting ice cold. He averaged 18 points on 39 percent while hitting a dismal 22 percent from the three-point line. Not exactly the numbers someone that is making $120 million should put up, but obviously the Hawks have put a lot of faith into Joe and truly believe that he can bring this team to the promise land.
Atlanta's 53 win season was their best since the 1997-'98 season when they won 56 games. It makes last years regular season even more impressive considering they are only five years removed from finishing 13-69. The Hawks can thank Mike Woodson for their drastic improvement, but can now look to Larry Drew when drawing up plays after the Hawks decided not to attempt to re-sign Woodson.
One achievement the Atlanta Hawks can boast is that they have the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Jamal Crawford who is going into his second season with the team. Jamal averaged 18 points on 45 percent shooting while leading the team in three-pointers made in his first role off the bench in four years. There is no doubt that the Hawks are comfortable with having Crawford come off the bench and bringing nearly 20 points off the bench every game.
Atlanta can also look to Josh Smith as another threat on this multi-dimensional team as he has not only become a smarter player, but a better shooter as well. Prior to last season, Smith would sometimes rush difficult jump shots and not use his ability and strength to drive the lane. Not only that, but he would take too many jump shots when he isn't exactly supposed to be the shooter on this team.
To show what a drastic improvement it was when it came to Smith's decisions to shoot, in the 2008-'09 season he shot 87 three-pointers compared to last season when he only shot seven and averaged over 50 percent shooting for the first time in his six-year career.
At only 24 years old, Smith has learned the game and is coming into his own as a potential All-Star if he can utilize the strength's that he has rather than trying to become something that he is not. The Hawks can always look to Smith for his defensive ability as well where he is excelled as a shot-blocker averaging over two per game over his career.
The Hawks can also look to a scoring threat in the middle in Al Horford. Currently, the NBA is not deep on centers with any big man having some sort of footwork being valuable to their team. Horford is no different as he averaged a career high 14 points on 55 percent from the field, good for eighth in the league.
With Horford improving season by season over the course of his short career, the Hawks still could be a threat for years to come if they keep their young core together. Horford, Smith, and even the greatly overpaid Marvin Williams could make this team a contender with experience and a true superstar.
Their pick-up's have not been vast with only two new players joining the team. Josh Powell, being one of the pick-up's, has five years of experience and has two championship ring's to show for it with the Los Angeles Lakers as a seldom used back up. Powell has averaged four points and three rebounds over his career as a bench warmer.
Jordan Crawford out of Xavier has shown the potential to become a possible starter in the upcoming year's after an impressive college career that is mostly remembered by dunking on LeBron James in a pick-up game. Jordan averaged 20 points on 46 percent and hit over two three-pointers per game on 39 percent shooting showing off impressive range and an ability to create his own shot. At 6'4" though, Crawford could only see himself as a back up to Joe Johnson for the time being.
The Hawks bench could have used more help with Jamal Crawford being the only true scorer. Maurice Evans, Zaza Pachulia, Jeff Teague, and Joe Smith round out the rest of the rotation with toughness, but not much of a scoring threat with Evans leading the way among the four at five points per game. The Hawks need another scorer off the bench aside from Crawford to pick up the slack if Jamal doesn't show up for the night and they didn't get it this off season with Josh Powell or Jordan Crawford.
Don't expect much to change with the Hawks lineup, but expect a better team than last year's. It might not show in the record if they don't win more than 53 games, but Atlanta can boast a young team that has won and is hungry for what they have strived the past two years for. The Hawks core continues to flourish with experience and if Joe Johnson can live up to that $120 million deal, then Atlanta just might be able to keep up with the powerhouse's of the Eastern Conference.
Projected Starting Lineup
This is Pt. 1 of a 30-day series of 2010-'11 season previews of each NBA team. My profile will contain every other team that has been previewed before.
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